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Posts by HARVEST:

Pay More Attention to Unsubscribe

Yesterday, Danny and I had a philosophical conversation about unsubscribe links. Specifically, we were discussing the fact that unsubscribe links are a legal requirement, which has made them an afterthought for most people. However in each email you send, every word should have meaning, even those required by law.

Clicking unsubscribe is a critical way that your customers use to communicate with you. When a customer clicks unsubscribe, she is telling you in no uncertain terms that you are wasting her time.

At Harvest our goal is to never waste people’s time (just to track it). That means we look to only send email that will be valuable to our customers. Two of our core principles are to Be Useful and to Keep Improving. The conversation served as a reminder for me not to take anyone’s time for granted. That’s why we decided to give our unsubscribe message some attention.

We are replacing:

This message was sent because you have a registered Harvest Account. Unsubscribe

With this:

We promise to only send helpful emails. If we’re not living up to that promise, simply unsubscribe.

We intend to live by this promise. I hope that sharing this conversation inspires you to be mindful of the things you do in your communications as well.

Preview: New User Profile

Our user profile was initially designed to be short, simple, and very fitting to our needs. As Harvest grew, it took on a more robust role, storing additional information and new settings for the application. We’ve realized that the profile had the potential to become a more powerful tool for customers to streamline their workflow, so we’ve taken the time to give it an overhaul.

In the coming weeks, we will be releasing a brand-new, smarter, and sharper profile. In our first release, we’ll be updating the overall design and organization:

new-profile-preview

Looking ahead, we’ll also be bringing new functionality to the user profile. As PMs or administrators, you will easily be able to add people to projects from the projects tab — an invaluable tool that’s been highly requested by you, our customers.

We’ll update you with a complete breakdown of the new features as they’re released. Stay tuned!

Geeking Out with Timers

Last Friday evening a bunch of us stayed at the office to play Settlers of Catan. It was the first time I ever played, and when I texted my husband to ask him to pick up the kids, he texted back with this: you’ll be there for a while.

Sure enough, the game did not move quickly. I was new, and others were rusty. After about an hour and a half, everyone was getting fidgety, so I took out my phone and convinced everyone to play as a timed game. Everyone got 1 minute for their turn, no more. The game was more fun and no one’s strategy suffered due to lack of time.

Since joining Harvest I’ve gotten a bit fanatical about measuring time and keeping myself to time limits. I’ve found that I have become more efficient. For me, timers create a sense of urgency that I need to help me focus.

In this age of constant distraction, what tools do you use to help you focus?

Harvest Playback: January 20th Edition

Hello!

It seems that flu season has arrived. Harvesters and their children are dropping like flies. So far among our team of 19 the virus has been spotted in NY, MN, PA and Canada. But even though the nasty bugs have been on attack we’ve still managed to get some work done and share some utterly ridiculous videos and animated gifs on Co-op.

The biggest product news this week is that we pushed out a new update to the Harvest App in the Android marketplace. We also deployed another 14 changes behind the scenes to make our beloved Harvest run even more smoothly. We ran a Time Savings Tuesday Contest and got some awesome Keystroke Protips from our Twitter community. And Samara came out of the closet as an introvert by writing this blog post on collaborative work spaces. Take that flu!

Next week Warwick, Jon and Christopher will be hitting the road. If you happen to be in Cape Town next week join our awesome Systems Guy, Warwick, for a drink. Once you’re done drinking him under the table, jet over to Seattle for a happy hour with 2/3 of our support team on Friday night.

And now a brief look into the wacky world of Co-op:

  • Lettini found this explanation to the age old question ‘What are the Developers really doing all day?”
  • Not really sure why Doug decided to share this picture with us, but now I’m sharing it with you.
  • Barry apparently gets tired often and needs a place to sit.  He found this solution – chair pants!
  • And, at lunch today we decided to end the week with a Friday evening game of Settlers of Catan.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Ode to Co-op

There has been plenty written recently on distributed teams. A couple of weeks ago @dhh wrote a post on the 37signals blog that generated an enormous amount of discussion. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about since I joined Harvest because I happen to think we run our distributed team really well.

A huge part of Harvest’s successful distributed team is our use of Co-op, a free online collaboration tool built by the Harvest team. Co-op is a private status update stream that is seamlessly integrated with Harvest (naturally!). The original intent was to create a water cooler that was less invasive than group chat. However it has become absolutely vital to the operations of this business as well as to the culture.

The reason Co-op works is that it enables one-to-many communication in addition to one-to-one communication. As a marketer, I shouldn’t be surprised that communication should vary if speaking to many people versus one person. It just never occurred to me that successful distributed teams need tools that enable multiple types of communications. It’s quite obvious now.

I’ll admit, when I first got here I was a bit overwhelmed by Co-op – it just seemed like one more continuous stream of chatter that I needed to pay attention to. I have now come to love it. In addition to keeping me up to date on what everyone is working on it has helped me build relationships with my co-workers both in and out of New York. Personalities come through in Co-op in a way that they don’t on email. It has helped create and maintain the sense of culture in the office.

If you have a distributed team, or even if you don’t, I recommend you check it out here.

Demand Better

Simply put, a big part of my job is to acquire more Harvest Customers. One approach we’ve been discussing lately is marketing our product to different industry verticals. Yesterday, I stumbled across a time tracking software specifically “designed” for lawyers. Naturally, I watched the demo so that I could see how we stack up. Harvest was the clear winner…by a wide margin. If your law firm uses this particular software, you have multiple (more than 5!) steps to go through each time you want to make a time entry. In other words, it costs time to track your time.

I have asked many lawyers about how they manage their billable hours. Several — not all — record time on scraps of paper or put it into an excel sheet. These time entries get passed along to admins who enter the time into the firms’ systems. Most don’t enter time as they work, rather they go through their calendars when timesheets are due and use memory. Firms are spending thousands of dollars on software that the lawyers don’t use because they don’t like it. These firms are wasting time and money, and missing out on countless billable hours.

Believe me, I understand the inertia that keeps inefficient systems in place. At my last job we used many clunky systems; we were on Lotus Notes until 2011. We all complained, but no one took the time to do anything about it.

As I watched the legal time tracking demo, I got to thinking: why don’t people demand better?

I think it’s because they don’t know that better exists. My epiphany of the day is that my job isn’t to sell Harvest — it’s to educate people that better exists.

Behind the Scenes: Customer Stories

Last week we launched a new customer page. Our old page was simple, it featured some customer quotes and logos. It helped people who were thinking about Harvest know that other reputable companies use our application but the page didn’t offer much in the way of education. We knew that our newer customers (and some of our longtime customers) wanted to see more detail and learn about how companies use Harvest. So we improved it.

Since you can easily read the profiles here, I wanted to use this space to take you behind the scenes on why we chose to feature one of the companies, Cuban Council. All of the featured customers ended up on our page through a cocktail of admiration and serendipity. However the story of why we chose Cuban Council provides a glimpse into the history of Harvest so I thought it was worth telling.

As many people know, Danny and Shawn built Harvest to meet a need they experienced while running their own web design agency. They wanted a time tracking system that felt good to use. Shortly after the launch of Harvest, Danny and Shawn received an email from the founders of Cuban Council. They were also frustrated with time tracking and were considering building a tool themselves. Luckily they stumbled upon Harvest and liked what they saw.

That email stirred real excitement for Danny and Shawn. As college friends they had discovered a mutual interest in design and technology. And during their college years they became avid readers of a design webzine, k10k.net. Turns out the people behind k10k.net went on to start Cuban Council. It was hugely gratifying for Danny and Shawn to see Harvest adopted by the same people whose design aesthetic they had followed while in college. Needless to say, that email was one of the first outside indicators to Danny and Shawn that Harvest was onto something big.

We hope to expand our customer section down the road. If you have an interesting story about how you’ve used Harvest for your team, I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t Take On That Project!

The following is a guest post by Edward Guttman, Director of User Experience at CodeStreet, LLC and Harvest customer. Ed has been honing his craft as a designer for close to 20 years, and here he shares his thought process behind deciding which projects to take on.

Let’s say your design firm is looking at a healthy sales pipeline and the signs are that you may get more work than you can handle. Everyone should have such problems, right? Should you just hire more people and grab all the work you can? Maybe not. There is a good chance that some of that work isn’t good for your business because it doesn’t align with your goals and your company vision.

Everyone who starts a business does it with some goals in mind and a vision of what kind of company they want to be. Most prospective clients have no idea what these are, so it’s up to you to make sure that you only pursue and take on work that best serves your needs. At my firm, we found that a useful tool was to establish assessment criteria that helped us to filter out work that we didn’t want to take on. These criteria gave us an agreed upon framework for our discussions and allowed us to make decisions efficiently and with confidence. We defined this framework by identifying three key things that an ideal project would provide us:

Venn diagram of an ideal project

Continue reading…

Behind the Scenes: Harvest Visits 3 NYC Design Firms

Last week was our Harvest Summit, a time when our team, both near and far, gets together in NYC for a week of work, fun (read: karaoke and drinks) and learning. One of the activities this year was a visit to 3 of our customers’ offices. Being in NYC, planning the customer visit was simple. We have a large base of customers here to choose from. Happily, the nice folks at Alexander Interactive, Barrel, and Moment were kind enough to open up their offices and calendars to small teams of Harvesters.

I, along with everyone at Harvest, believe that a strong customer focus is critical to everything we do. It’s much easier to develop, design, support and market a product when you have a sense of who will be using it. When we debriefed on the visits, a few notable themes came up that I wanted to share with all of you.

1. Our customers (at least the 3 we visited) have been growing rapidly. As a point of example, Barrel has grown from 2 founders to 16 people in just a couple of years.

Harvest Developer Matt Beale and Peter Kang, Barrel Co-Founder chat in the Barrel office

Continue reading…

Do You Have a Favorite Brand?

If you’re like most people I meet, your favorite is not a Business to Business (B2B) brand. Generally speaking, it’s the rare B2B brand that inspires deep passion or devotion. That’s why when I was introduced to Harvest, and I discovered its passionate base of users, I knew that this was a company I wanted to be a part of.

As a long time B2B marketer who formerly worked at a huge company, American Express OPEN, I am excited to introduce myself as the newest member of the Harvest team. I have dedicated the better part of 10 years getting to know the small- and mid-sized business space. Specifically, I’ve spent a large chunk of my time meeting business owners, behind the mirror at focus groups, planning live events, creating content, and running and analyzing marketing campaigns targeted at business owners. I love this customer segment. I think you guys are inspiring. And I’m excited to keep working on solutions that make your lives’ easier.

About me: I’m a mother of two children, married to a tech entrepreneur, and I’m an avid business idea machine (business apps, healthy baby food, you name it). The reason I joined Harvest is simple: I wanted to work with great people on an amazing product that people love. As a marketer, Harvest has something else to get excited about: a creative and committed user base that has helped make this company what it is today, and is continuing to shape and promote the business. Just look at what people are saying about @harvest on Twitter and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

And here’s why: the reason the product is great becomes apparent on day one of working here – we all use it. To track EVERYTHING. I know how much time I’ve spent in meetings since I got here, how much time I’ve spent on emails, even how much time writing this blog post. I’m proud to share that in my first 5 weeks here I’ve only spent 7.9 hours in meetings. I did that each day at my last job. Turns out, when you track your time you spend it more productively.

Help this new girl out: if you were me, what would you do to spread the word about Harvest? What would inspire you, personally, to tell your friends and colleagues about Harvest? What tools do you need from us? Please let me know in the comments below, or email me directly at naama@getharvest.com. I’m excited to hear what you have to say and to get to know you all better, and thanks for using Harvest!